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Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 7

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing, [ wayim`aluw (H4603) ... ma`al (H4604)] - But the children of Israel took by stealth in (against) the cherem (ban). They hastened to leave Jericho and the Ghor, or valley of the Jordan: for 'the effects would have been fatal if the Hebrews had remained long under the influence of that relaxing, enfeebling climate, where their frames, now braced and vigorous, might so soon be enervated and unstrung. The inhabitants of the valley had been found wholly unfit to contend with thee strenuous, active men who had been trained in such severe physical discipline on the high ground of Paran, and in the long march thence amidst the privations of the wilderness.

Moreover, habits of profligacy were congenial with the climate and neighbourhood, as was manifested in the demoralized condition of the natives. The Hebrew leader, therefore, lost no time in conducting his people up one of the passes which led through the mountains into the heart of the country, to begin the strenuous contest they had to wage with the highland chieftains whom they were commanded to dispossess. Those who actually ventured up the craggy, broken paths, often skirting the edge of terrific precipices, and with "waves of naked, desolate, pyramidal, and conical mountains" on all sides of them, were-as indeed they must have been-high-minded as well as adventurous men. The nature of the country strikingly develops the character of those by whom this part of their enterprise was carried forward, especially when we bear in mind how they were encumbered, conveying as they could, on camels and mules, besides their personal effects, the materials and utensils of the sacred tabernacle, and the coffin that contained the embalmed body of their great countryman, which they had kept safe through all the vicissitudes of the pilgrimage, and were now carrying to its grave in that burial-place on the ancestral estate which he had chosen in Shechem.' (For an excellent description of the three roads leading up into the heart of the country, see Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' vol. 2:, p. 312; Van de, Velde, vol. 2:, p. 278; Drew's 'Scripture Lands' p. 100). There was one transgressor against the cherem, or ban, on Jericho, and his transgression brought the guilt and disgrace of sin upon the whole nation. Achan, called afterward Achar (trouble) (1 Chronicles 2:7), son of Zabdi, or Zimri (1 Chronicles 2:6); Zerah, or Zarah; Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38:30). His genealogy is given probably to show that from a parentage so infamous, the descendants would not be carefully trained in the fear of God.

Verse 2

And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai. After the sacking of Jericho, the next step was to penetrate into the hills above. Accordingly, spies went up the mountain pass to view the country. The precise site of Ai, or Hai, is indicated with sufficient clearness, Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3. [ `Ay (H5857), generally with the article prefixed, was a royal city in Canaan, a little east of Bethel; Septuagint, Gai (see varieties of the name, 1 Chronicles 7:28; Nehemiah 11:31; Isaiah 10:28).] The import of the name is a heap or tumulus of ruins. It has been recently discovered in an isolated Tell, called by the natives Tell-el-hajar, 'the Mount of Stones,' at two miles', or 'thirty-five minutes', distance east-southeast from Bethel (Van de Velde); but (see Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' vol. 2:, pp. 119; 312, 313; 'Handbook of Syria and Palestine,' p. 216) Keil identifies the site of Ai with Turmus Aya, a good deal further north. Stanley says ('Sinai and Palestine,' pp. 198, 202, note) that 'the precise position of Ai is unknown; but the description of Joshua points out its probable site in the wild entanglement of hill and valley at the head of the Wady Suweinit.'

Beside Beth-aven, [ `im (H5973) Beeyt-'Aawen (H1007), near or hard by (cf. Judges 18:3); Septuagint, kata Baitheel.] Beth-aven, with reference to the tauriform image which was the symbol of idol-worship, in the land of the Raphaim (1 Samuel 13:5), means 'house of vanity,' a name afterward given derisively (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5), on account of its idolatries, to Bethel, 'house of God;' but here referred to another place about six miles east of Bethel, and three north of Ai.

Verse 3

And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.

Let not all the people go up ... for they are but few. Since the population of Ai amounted to 1,200 (Joshua 8:25), it was a considerable town; though in the hasty and distant reconnoitre made by the spies, it probably appeared small in comparison of Jericho; and this may have been the reason of their proposing so small a detachment to capture it.

Verse 4

So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.

They fled before the men of Ai. An unexpected resistance and the loss of 36 of their number diffused a panic, which ended in an ignominious rout.

Verse 5

And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.

Chased them ... even unto Shebarim - i:e., unto the 'breakings' or 'fissures' at the opening of the passes. But Gesenius renders Shebarim 'even unto the ruins-breaches of walls' (cf. Isaiah 30:13-14). The Septuagint omits the words entirely.

And smote them in the going down - i:e., the declivity or slope of the deep, rugged adjoining wady. [Septuagint, apo tou kataferous, from the (top of) the declivity.]

Wherefore the hearts of the people melted. It is evident that the troops engaged were a tumultuary, undisciplined band, no better skilled in military affairs than the Bedonin Arabs, who become disheartened and flee on the loss of 10 or 15 men. But the consternation of the Israelites arose from another cause-the evident displeasure of God, who withheld that aid on which they had confidently reckoned.

Verse 6

And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. Joshua rent his clothes, and fell ... before the ark ... he and the elders, [ lipneey (H6440) 'ªrown (H727)] - before or toward the ark. From the circumstance of God's being represented as dwelling between the cherubim over the ark of the covenant, and manifesting His glory on extraordinary occasions in an outward visible form (cf. Leviticus 9:24; Leviticus 16:2; 1 Samuel 4:4; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalms 80:2), the ark was sometimes designated "the footstool" of God (1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalms 99:5; Psalms 132:7; Lamentations 2:1); whence prayers in distress, as well as thanks for deliverance, were offered before the ark of the covenant (cf. 2 Samuel 15:32; 1 Kings 3:15: see for this Hengstenberg, 'Christology,' vol. 2: p. 387). It is evident, from these tokens of humiliation and sorrow, that a solemn fast was observed on this occasion. The language of Joshua's prayer is thought by many to savour of human infirmity, and to be wanting in that reverence and submission he owed to God. But, although apparently breathing a spirit of bold remonstrance and complaint, it was in reality the effusion of a deeply-humbled and afflicted mind, expressing his belief that God could not, after having so miraculously brought His people over Jordan into the promised land, intend to destroy them, to expose them to the insults of their triumphant enemies, and bring reproach upon His own name for inconstancy or unkindness to His people, or inability to resist their enemies. Unable to understand the cause of the present calamity, he owned the hand of God.

Verses 7-9

And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 10

And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?

The Lord said ... Get thee up. The answer of the divine oracle was to this effect:-The crisis is owing not to unfaithfulness in Me, but sin in the people. The conditions of the covenant have been violated by the reservation of spoil from the doomed city; wickedness, emphatically called folly, has been committed in Israel (Psalms 14:1); and dissimulation, with other aggravations of the crime, continues to be practiced. The people are liable to destruction equally with the accursed nations of Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:26). Means must, without delay, be taken to discover and punish the perpetrator of this trespass, that Israel may be released from the ban, and things be restored to their former state of prosperity.

Verses 11-15

Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:

So Joshua rose up early ... and brought Israel by their tribes - i:e., before the tabernacle. The lot being appealed to (Proverbs 16:33) - a mode of appealing to the divine decision, to which the Israelites resorted in cases of grave public interest, and for which they made preparation by solemn rites of religion-Joshua proceeded in the inquiry from heads of tribes to heads of families, and from heads of households in succession to one family, and to particular persons in that family. It must be borne in mind that a family, according to the usage of the Hebrews, was very different from a family according to our ideas. It was not a single household, but may have included many households; or, vice versa, one household may have been subdivided into many families (see the note at Exodus 6:25). The criminal was found to be Achan, who, on Joshua's admonition, confessed the fact of having secreted for his own use, in the floor of his tent, spoil both in garments and money. How dreadful must have been his feelings when he saw the slow but certain process of discovery! (Numbers 32:23.)

Verses 17-18

And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 19

And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.

Joshua said ... My son, give ... glory to ... God - a form of adjuration to tell the truth.

Verse 20

And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 21

When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

A goodly Babylonian garment, [ 'aderet (H155) Shin`aar (H8152)] - a mantle of Shinar. The plain of Shinar was in early times celebrated for its gorgeous robes, which were of brilliant and various colours, generally arranged in figured patterns, probably resembling those of modern Turkish carpets; and the colours were either interwoven in the loom or embroidered with the needle (see Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1:, p. 125). The robe which Achan had secreted was probably ornamented with idolatrous figures, which made it an "accursed thing."

Two hundred shekels of silver - equivalent to 22 British pounds, 10 shillings sterling according to the old Mosaic shekel; or the half of that sum, reckoning by the common shekel (see curious decree of the time of Diocletian, in which the value of several articles of textile manufacture from Babylon is specified, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 537, note).

A wedge of gold - literally, an ingot or bar in the shape of a tongue: perhaps the golden statuette of an idol (cf. Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Isaiah 30:22).

Verse 22

So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.

Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent - from impatient eagerness not only to test the truth of the story, but to clear Israel from the imputation of guilt. Having discovered the stolen articles, they laid them out before the Lord, 'as a token of their belonging to Him' on account of the ban.

Verse 23

And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 24

And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan - himself, with his children and all his property, cattle as well as moveables, were brought into one of the long broad ravines that open into the Ghor; and after being stoned to death (Numbers 15:30-35), his corpse, with all belonging to him, was consumed to ashes by fire. "All Israel" were present, not only as spectators, but active agents, as many as possible, in inflicting the punishment-thus testifying their abhorrence of the sacrilege, and their intense solicitude to regain the divine favour. Since the divine law expressly forbade the children to be put to death for the fathers' sins (Deuteronomy 24:16), the conveyance of Achan's "sons and ... daughters" to the place of execution might be only as spectators, that they might take warning by the parental fate; or, if they shared his punishment (Joshua 22:20), they had probably been accomplices in his crime: and, indeed, he could scarcely have dug a hole within his tent without his family being privy to it.

Verse 25

And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 26

And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

They raised over him a great head of stones. It is customary to raise cairns over the graves of criminals or infamous persons in the East still. Every honest Arab, on passing the grave of a robber, indicates his detestation of the crime and its perpetrator by adding a stone to the cairn (cf. Joshua 8:29; 2 Samuel 18:17).

Called, The valley of Achor (trouble), unto this day. So painful an episode would give notoriety to the spot; and it is more than once noticed by the sacred writers of a later age (Isaiah 65:10; Hosea 2:15). It is the same as in latter age was known as "the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan" (see the note at 1 Kings 17:1-7), now Wady el-Kelt.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 7". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/joshua-7.html. 1871-8.
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